With the COVID-19 pandemic starting to subside, companies are re-opening their offices, and people are beginning to feel comfortable meeting in person again. This means work trips and corporate travel are picking up after an almost two-year slump. Of course, some frequent business travelers are yearning to pick up their tote, carry-on bag and get back in the air, but after a long hiatus, their “travel skills” can be a little rusty.
That is why we put together this guide with travel tips to help you maximize the value of your next business trip.
With new COVID restrictions and regulations, traveling is not as easy as before, especially when international travel is involved. QR codes have replaced business cards and boarding passes, while new rules around corporate travel, testing, and vaccines have made trip planning challenging even for the most seasoned travelers. In addition, stricter travel policies and fewer perks at airport lounges and hotel rooms in the name of safety have changed various aspects of the travel experience.
It doesn’t matter if you are heading a few states over to New York for a last-minute meeting or traveling long haul across five time zones to London for a conference and a week of business meetings; effective planning is vital.
1. General Post- COVID Business Travel Tips
According to McKinsey, business travel in the USA plummeted by 71% in 2020. By late 2021 high vaccination rates and other factors have contributed to more business travelers taking back to the skies. However, travel is not as easy and streamlined as it once was.
Getting to the airport with little time to spare is a thing of the past. When traveling by air, we recommend you pack light and only take carry-on luggage. If you are a member of an airline’s frequent flyer loyalty program or travel in business class, keep in mind that many service offerings you might be used to, such as hot in-flight meals and airline lounges with complimentary buffets, have been temporarily suspended.
If you are traveling overseas, check for travel restrictions on the US State Department’s Travel Advisory website as well as your destination’s government websites. On travel day, make sure you schedule extra time for long check-in lines, document checks, and other COVID era inconveniences. We recommend joining the TSA Precheck program to avoid long security lines and expedite the screening process. In addition, if you travel internationally, you should apply for the Global Entry program.
2. Don’t Eat Meals Alone
We recognize that after months of working from home and only attending Zoom meetings, you may have gotten used to sitting down to eat with your family or alone in front of your computer. However, It’s essential to use your time on the road wisely by being as social as possible.
Meals are good opportunities for people to bond, learn about each other’s lives, and find ways to interact socially and professionally. Ideally, you should try to have a meal with new contacts you just met during your trip, giving you a chance to get to know them in an informal, intimate setting where they can tell you about their goals and challenges and connect on a deeper level. If you can’t invite someone new, at least share meals with the people you know, thereby strengthening those valuable relationships.
Sometimes after a long flight and possibly a layover, the last thing you want to do is get ready and meet someone at a restaurant, but breaking bread together is one of the most effective ways to build your network.
To make the most of your travel, you can leverage 4Degrees to quickly generate a list of potential deal sources or investors in your destination city that you should consider contacting and meeting. This way, you can save time by scheduling meetings, meals, drinks, etc., in advance, thereby maximizing your time on the road.
3. Set a Goal for the Trip
Business travel is expensive, both in terms of time and money. When you factor in the time away from the office, travel times, expenses, etc., costs add up. That is why for teams with small budgets, each trip should have a positive return on investment (ROI). To make the most of your travel, we recommend you set a simple and measurable goal for the trip.
For example, if you are a seed stage venture capital investor heading to a conference full of early-stage startups, you might set a goal to meet with at least five potential entrepreneurs you can add to your prospect list. That is, you want to meet five companies that are raising capital and fit your firm’s investment criteria. Going back to the point above, ideally, you would like to take the time to meet with them for dinner, instead of just casually meeting with them in a conference hall and exchanging business cards.
Setting up goals can help you mobilize your focus towards actionable behavior and keep you motivated during your trip.
4. Use Your CRM Platform
As an investor in the private markets, you should be using a relationship intelligence CRM system designed for your specific industry instead of a generic CRM intended for a transactional sales process.
When attending a conference or networking event, you must ensure all your contacts and interactions are logged into your CRM. As the adage goes: “if it’s not in the CRM, it did not happen.” For example, if you are a 4Degrees user, you can easily use your cell phone to scan a business card and add a contact directly into 4Degrees in seconds. This way, you and your team will be able to track all conversations and build stronger relationships.
Let’s say you attended a conference and met the founder of a promising potential investment. By plugging their information into 4Degrees, you can begin to track the various touchpoints and interactions.
Additionally, you and your team can add notes about the new contact and set reminders to take action in the future. To nurture the relationship, you will receive updates and notifications to stay abreast of key events about your new contact or his company, empowering you with the best intelligence to give you an event-based reason to re-engage with them.
5. Start With an Anchor Meeting
With the advent of Zoom and other virtual teleconference software, not all meetings need to happen face-to-face. However, if you are going on a trip, there is an important event, meeting, or conference that requires you to be there in person. We call this your “anchor meeting.”
We recommend you schedule meetings around your “anchor meeting” and get some face time with other individuals from your network to maximize your travel. For example, if you are in town for a conference, but one of your portfolio companies is headquartered in the same city, we recommend you take the time to meet with them as well. With in-person meetings being less common than before, they are a great way to nurture and grow your network; as such, you should prioritize them over virtual events and social media interactions.
Every time you go on a trip, make sure you meet with someone from your network you have not seen in a long time as a way to revitalize waning relationships. If you are using 4Degrees, you have visibility into the strength of your relationships and can create a list of contacts you should prioritize meeting. For example, you can run a list of people you know in the Seattle area that you haven’t talked to or emailed in the past 90 days.
6. Preparation is Key
We’ve all been there; we walk into a room and come across someone we know but can’t recall their name or where we know them from. This situation can be very frustrating, especially if you think engaging with this person could benefit you or your firm.
By having access to the correct information at the right time, you can try and establish rapport and get the most value from your business trips. For example, you can do this by running a list of who will be at the event and some background information or context from your last interaction or touchpoints.
A relationship intelligence tool like 4Degrees can provide you with that information in seconds to make the most out of any conference or meeting by consistently showing up prepared and ready to engage. No more sorting through disparate notes, emails, or other multiple tools.
7. Take Lots of Good Notes
Business travel can be a whirlwind of activity, especially if you suffer from jet lag, travel with a large group, or have a busy schedule. In addition, if you are meeting many new people and have to ingest a lot of information relatively quickly, it is easy to forget the details when you get home.
Sure, you could use your favorite note-taking app or use a pocket-sized notebook, but then you will have to go back and organize those notes. So instead, we recommend using 4Degrees on your phone to add notes directly into a contact’s record, thereby allowing you and your team to know what was discussed with who, the following steps, and the context surrounding the conversation. Just make sure to bring an extra phone charger in case you are away from your hotel room for a few hours.
8. Move Forward Quickly
To get the most value from your trip, it’s essential to move quickly on any opportunities you encounter. The sooner you take action, the sooner you will reap the benefits. With access to Wi-Fi and a mobile phone, you are more than ready to stay productive while on the road.
For instance, if you are at a conference and a contact introduces you to a potential limited partner interested in learning more about your fund, don’t wait until you get back to the office to send them your deck or fund one-pager. Instead, to take advantage of the momentum, be sure to send those documents right away when you get back to your hotel.
If you identify a potential investment opportunity while on your trip, take steps to move through your process. Brief your team before you get home so you don’t lose the opportunity to other investors, especially now that we see VC deals close in record times. The key here is to keep your new relationships and deals moving forward at all times.
By having the right processes and tools in place, being away from the office will not interrupt your firm’s workflow. Instead, it will help expand your deal pipeline and expedite the fundraising process.
9. Schedule time to relax
It’s tempting to fill every moment of your trip with work-related activities. Business travel isn’t cheap, so you want to be as productive as possible, right?
But if you try to work 15 hours a day while traveling, you’re going to burn yourself out. You’ll make mistakes and fail to make good impressions on new contacts.
Schedule some downtime during your trip. For instance, you might visit a restaurant or a local attraction with your colleagues without discussing work. Or it might be as simple as a quiet evening alone in your hotel room.
Your business travel is an investment. A trip that doesn’t accomplish anything is a waste of everyone’s time and money. Use the tips we outlined above to maximize the value of your business development travel.
Want to be prepared for your next trip? Don’t leave without an effective relationship management system that’s designed for deal-driven teams. 4Degrees will automatically track your relationships and deals with actionable intelligence to help you move them forward. Request a demo today.